Price: $250.00

    Code: 2489

    Directed by Stephanie Spray
    2010, 14 minutes
    Purchase: $250 Rental: $95

    A revealing one-shot portrait of two Nepali newlyweds in a moment of rest and playful interaction, Stephanie Spray's Untitled challenges our perception of two themes at the very core of ethnographic filmmaking: human relationships and the ways in which they can be experienced by the viewer.

    Only fourteen minutes long, Untitled is uncut, rejecting the implications of edited sequences and also purposefully excluding subtitles over the couple's conversation. The style of the film confronts the history of ethnography as a controversial study of the "other" by refusing us any clear messages or meanings behind what is being presented, challenging the viewer to come up with their own answers to any questions that may arise.

    Artist's Statement:
    A prerequisite for most social anthropologists conducting fieldwork is fluency in the primary languages of their subjects; this is for practical reasons, as it fosters rapport and facilitates insights into local lifeworlds, as well as professional, insofar as linguistic agility confers a degree of hermeneutic legitimacy. Within visual anthropology, subtitling has become de rigueur for ethnographic films, a tendency that effectively highlights the role of semantic meaning in our apprehension of the world. Untitled is a playful 14-minute piece that deliberately thwarts expectations for linguistic interpretations to instead highlight other kinds of meaning--those which would otherwise be dictated, if not eclipsed, by the flickering text of subtitles. Without these semantic guides, the viewer is encouraged to seek whatever meaning may be found in looking, listening, and loitering with the unnamed subjects.

    Phenomenological appreciation is not, however, the end point; rather it is a place from which to consider aesthetic decisions, namely the willful determinacy of the frame for what it highlights and organizes spatially--as well as for what it dismisses or conceals. The 16:9 field of vision seemingly confines the two primary subjects, as it does the viewers, an effect that is further engendered by the shot's tenacious duration. The obstinacy of the frame is suggestive of the filmmaker's investment in the camera's potential to conjure a visual trick, to reveal an unfolding drama from prosaic events. While watching playful banter of the restless couple escalate--and the young imp who meanders in and out of the frame to harass them--viewers are encouraged to ponder ethical questions regarding the presence of the camera, for what it shares and withholds, as well as that of the filmmaker as she hangs around, delving into the lives of her "subjects."

    The piece is punctured and abruptly terminated with a single subtitled question as the central male figure addresses the filmmaker directly. By subtitling this direct address, she extends this question to the viewer, "Are you uncomfortable?" Together they echo James Agee's reservations in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Who are you who will watch this, by what chance, and what will you do about it? Why was this work made, and by what right, for what purpose, to what good end, or none?

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    * Official Selection, Art of the Real, Film Society of Lincoln Center, 2014